Far East District experiences 2ID museum through the lens of Native American contributions

Col. (ret) William Alexander (left), museum director, highlights the contributions that American Indians and Alaskan Natives have made throughout U.S. military history to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Far East District employees. To commemorate National American Indian/Native Alaskan Heritage Month the District employees visited the Second Infantry Division (2ID) and Eighth Army Korea Theater of Operations Museum located in U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, Pyeongtaek, South Korea, Nov. 18.
Col. (ret) William Alexander (left), museum director, highlights the contributions that American Indians and Alaskan Natives have made throughout U.S. military history to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Far East District employees. To commemorate National American Indian/Native Alaskan Heritage Month the District employees visited the Second Infantry Division (2ID) and Eighth Army Korea Theater of Operations Museum located in U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, Pyeongtaek, South Korea, Nov. 18.

Far East District experiences 2ID museum through the lens of Native American contributions

by Kim Chong-yun
US Army Corps of Engineers Far East District

USAG HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea – Each November, we reflect on the contributions and sacrifices that American Indian and Alaska Native Soldiers, civilians and family members have made throughout U.S. history.

For this year's National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month observance, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Far East District employees trekked to the Second Infantry Division (2ID) and Eighth Army Korea Theater of Operations Museum, located at U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, Nov. 18.

“American Indian Heritage Month provides a great opportunity for FED employees and family members to visit the museum and learn about American Indian Medal of Honor recipients and about a bit of FED history from the historian, William Alexander,” said Stephen Brown, FED Equal Employment Opportunity manager, who coordinated the museum tour.

The 2ID museum was first established in a Quonset hut on Camp Casey in Dongducheon near the North Korean border. It was officially relocated from Camp Red Cloud, Uijeongbu, located north of Seoul to USAG Humphreys, Pyeongtaek in June 2019, following the relocation of the division’s headquarters to the expanded Camp Humphreys. Since then, it has expanded its mandate to include the Eighth Army and the Korean theater of operations overall.

“As I walked through the museum, I was filled with a sense of gratitude for the men and women who fought on behalf of others, and who sacrificed so much to maintain the American experiment and preserve the principles of liberty and democracy,” said David Thomas, FED Design Branch chief.

The curated exhibits, featuring World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, were arranged in historical order.

As visitors explored the museum, Col. (ret) William Alexander, museum director, highlighted the contributions of American Indians and Alaskan Natives throughout U.S. military history.

Alexander pointed to a flag on display. It was the very flag protected by Sgt. Robert Hopkins, an enlisted chaplain, who was captured in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. During captivity, Hopkins protected the American flag and used his blood to record the names of more than 300 U.S. prisoners of war, so their sacrifices would never be forgotten. Hopkins donated the flag and bible to the 2ID museum in 1979. In 2004, the flag was loaned for Hopkins’ funeral at Arlington National Cemetery and returned to the 2ID museum after the ceremony.

Displays include the helmet worn by Gen. James Van Fleet, who assumed command of Eighth Army during the Korean War and the 2ID Indianhead patch that astronaut Michael Collins carried on the Apollo 11 lunar mission.

A diorama of the battle of Chipyong-ni during the Korean War caught the group’s attention. The battle of Chipyong-ni which Alexander referred to as the “Gettysburg of the Korean War” was the first major defeat for the Chinese Communist Forces and proved to be the turning point of the war.

“I was dismayed by the reminder of the destructive force that is war between nations, and the sober price of blood, treasure, and sacrifice that war demands.” Thomas said, the exhibits and relics of war on display showed that it was not a fight between Soldiers alone, but also between ideas: Nazism and fascism in WWII, and in the Korean War and subsequent wars that followed, a fight against oppressive dictatorship, communism, and Marxist ideologies.

“The lesson I gained from my trip to the museum is to remind myself that these ideas did not die when the wars against them ended, and that we must be aware, vigilant, and prepared to challenge them wherever they may permeate into our society today,” added Thomas.

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USACE Far East District is the premier engineering, design, and construction agent for all DoD agencies in the Republic of Korea. Since its inception, the Far East District has played a critical role in the security and stability of the region and in strengthening the alliance between the US and the ROK. As such, it also fulfills a unique mission; the only “maneuver” district within USACE, FED must always be prepared for war, even while building for peace on the Korean peninsula. The Far East District is responsible for executing a multi-billion dollar program, the largest construction program managed by the U.S. Army.

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